Moving is a very personal activity. As a result, there are very few one-size-fits-all answers.

For example, ask someone how they moved to Hawaii, and you’ll get any number of replies. One person will tell you they stepped off the plane with a surfboard and a suitcase. Another will tell you they put the entire contents of their 3BR house into a shipping container.

Moving with just a few pieces of checked luggage makes for simple logistics (if some difficult decision-making)!

However, if you choose to ship a container, there are a few things you should know. After all, if you’re going to the trouble of moving your most valuable possessions, you’ll want to make sure they arrive in the same condition when they were packed up.

First and foremost, packing a container for ocean freight is a little different than, say, packing a moving truck for a cross-country relocation. It requires a little more preparation, especially where fragile items are concerned.

Let’s walk through it together!

What Makes Container Shipping So Different?

You may be familiar with techniques for packing a moving truck. After all, it is important to protect fragile items from things like potholes, bumps and highway vibration. However, a container goes through a much more volatile journey across the Pacific Ocean. As we discussed in our article on protecting your move, wave heights in the Pacific can be significant, subjecting your container to a considerable amount of motion.

Additionally, your container gets lifted by a crane on and off the ship. This can also result in a few bumps more significant than you’d see on Route 66.

Bottom line: The contents of your container will likely shift during their voyage, so they need to be packed with extra care. 

Thousands of items make it safely across the Pacific every day — including fragile items like wine shipments, glassware and more. To give you some insight into how the pros make it happen, we’ll share three professional packing secrets, using your furniture as an example.

Three Packing Tips from The Pros

1. Wrap it Right


The key to protecting your furniture from any bumps and bruises it might sustain is to cushion it carefully. Many people use moving blankets, plastic wrap or bubble wrap to add a few extra layers of protection.

If you hire a moving company to come to your house and pack your container, you’ll see them use what’s called “packer’s paper”–a 4-ply paper/fiber combo that will protect your furniture from damage. Additionally, they’ll use sheet cardboard as an extra layer to cushion high-value furniture items for an extra layer of security.

That way, if your contents shift during transit, your furniture has all the padding it needs to absorb any impact without damage.

2. Position it Properly


Professional movers have all sorts of tips and tricks to place your furniture in your container so it arrives in perfect condition.

For example, did you know that memory foam mattresses need to be laid level (just like they are on your bed frame) or they can get ruined in transit? It’s tempting to place these mattresses on their sides. However, this can cause the material to sag and lose its shape. If it’s left in this position long enough, it can completely ruin the mattress. So as you pack, make sure to find a place for your memory foam mattress to lie flat.

Additionally, professional movers may turn other furniture, like couches, on their sides or on their ends in order to make the load snug. By positioning your wrapped furniture in a way that eliminates any gaps between items, you can minimize any potential shifting during transit.

3. Balance Your Load


When many people hire professional movers for the first time, they find themselves surprised that their movers don’t pack “in order.” Instead, professional movers may take a piece from your living room, then two pieces for your dining room, then a few boxes from your kitchen. Rest assured that there’s a method behind this apparent madness!

Whenever they pack a container, professional movers focus on creating a balanced load. When there’s an even distribution of weight throughout the load as a whole, the items in the container are less likely to shift during transit. Additionally, a balanced load reduces the possibility of damage. Just imagine what could if you have a tower of light items. As the boat moves, it’s possible those heavy items may start to lean into the light ones, crushing them.

To pack a container in a way that minimizes potential damage, think less in terms of rooms and types of items. Instead, concentrate on making sure the weight gets distributed evenly throughout your container.

Bonus Tip: If you’ve decided to pack your container yourself, make sure you get a ramp. Containers sit on a chassis that’s about four feet off the ground. A ramp will offer you a much easier way to get your items inside your container. (Unless, of course, you’ve hired a crew of champion deadlifters to hoist your couch up and in!)

When It Comes Time to Move, You Have Options

Just like the people who came before you, you’ll make your move to Hawaii on your own terms. Maybe you’ll decide to just roll with a few checked suitcases, or perhaps you’ll opt to take a home’s worth of possessions in a container. Don’t forget that you also have plenty of options in between, like less than container loads (LCL)!

One more decision you’ll want to make is whether you want the assistance of a moving company. Many companies offer end-to-end service, meaning that they’ll come to your house, pack your belongings for you, then unpack them in your new home. This option allows you to take advantage of the expertise they’ve accumulated after helping man, many people make a big move.

If you decide to go it your own, we hope these tips will help you create a snug, balanced container load that’s cushioned just right for its journey to your new home.


For More Helpful Moving Tips Subscribe to Our Newsletter

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Tell us about your move!
  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.